Well, the second round of the NHL playoffs get under way tonight.
Without the Leafs.
(But with the first Battle of Alberta in 31 years!)
It’s still a long way until we get to the Stanley Cup Final, and there will be the announcement of the NHL Award winners this year before we know the 2022 Stanley Cup champions. And the class of 2022 Hockey Hall of Fame inductions will be announced on June 27th, which should be around the same time the Final finally ends. As no class of 2021 was named, to allow for the induction of the 2020 honoured members, whose original ceremony had been cancelled due to Covid, there are a lot of new names eligible for the first time this year.
It could be a big year for Swedish players and for Vancouver Canucks, as among the likely selections new to be considered this year are Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings, twin brothers Daniel and Henrik Sedin of the Canucks, plus goalie Roberto Luongo. And perhaps Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson will be chosen from among a list of holdovers that includes several worthy candidates who have yet to be honoured.
The first inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame were announced 77 years ago, on May 1, 1945. Only eight members were expected to be elected to that inaugural class, but a tie in the voting saw nine men named. All of those original inductees were deceased. They are (in alphabetical order):
Of those names, Vezina still resonates with hockey fans today because of the trophy for best goalie that was named in his honour. Some fans might still know of Morenz, and maybe McGee. Perhaps Hobey Baker as well, for the NCAA trophy in his name. But only fans who know the game’s history well generally recognize the others. Tommy Phillips is an historical favourite of mine, and as the captain and star of the 1907 Stanley Cup champion Kenora Thistles, he is well-covered in my upcoming book, Engraved in History, about that team.
Though I’ve been promising this for a while now, I really will be providing more details soon about the long-delayed launch of Engraved in History. (Promise!) And it was in looking up stories about Tommy Phillips recently that I stumbled across the articles that inspired this story.
Baseball elected the first members of its Hall of Fame in 1936, and opened a museum at Cooperstown in 1939. That opening seems to have inspired talk of a Hockey Hall of Fame, and as those talks gained momentum, sportswriters and former hockey stars were often asked for their opinion of who should make up the inaugural class. Many names — including several of those above — were bandied about in the early 1940s. This was mainly a Canadian pastime, but Americans offered their opinion too.
Boston Globe sports editor Jerry Nason chimed in on December 28, 1943. While admitting it was hard to select from among such great athletes as Lionel Conacher, Cyclone Taylor, Art Ross, Lester Patrick, King Clancy and more, Nason (who didn’t figure to be called upon when the time actually came, and acknowledged that he was no expert) offered three names: Morenz, Frank Nighbor, and Eddie Shore.
A week later, Nason’s column was all about an old-time Ottawa hockey fan living in the Boston area who’d been inspired by Nason’s list to offer his own Hall of Fame selections. Among those that Roy Welch was campaigning for were Tommy Phillips — whom he thought could skate backwards through the entire Boston Bruins team of that time — Lester Patrick, Joe Hall, and Moose Johnson. He also claimed to have known Cyclone Taylor personally. Still his picks (in reverse order) were:
Marty McGuire, said Mr. Welch, was a star of the 1897 Ottawa Victorias. He credited McGuire with inventing both the hook check and the poke check. “For a defensemen,” said Welch, “he wasn’t big and he certainly was slow. He skated on his heels. He could go the length of the ice without picking up his feet — but you couldn’t get the puck away from him!”
Now, I don’t claim to know every old-time hockey player there ever was, but if a guy was good enough to be considered for the Hall of Fame, I’d like to think I’d at least have heard of him! Fortunately, someone at the Society for International Hockey Research (I’m looking at you, Ernie Fitzsimmons!) must have heard of him at some point, because SIHR has a fairly lengthy entry for McGuire.
It turns out that Marty McGuire didn’t play for the Ottawa Victorias in 1897. He played with the Ottawa Capitals, who were crushed so badly by the Montreal Victorias in a 15-2 loss in the first game of an 1897 Stanley Cup challenge that the second game was called off. But, two years later, McGuire played with Frank McGee for the Ottawa Aberdeens, a top local intermediate team. In 1899-1900 he played with McGee’s brother Jim and Hod Stuart’s brother Bruce (a Hall of Famer in his own right) with the Canadian Atlantic Railway Team in the Canadian Railway Hockey League. (This was an Ottawa-Montreal circuit that actually featured a few future stars of the game.)
A handful of articles mentioning Marty McGuire can be found when searching Ottawa newspapers from the 1890s into the early 1900s. Nothing, however, that makes him sound like he was a future Hockey Hall of Famer. Obituaries in newspapers in Ottawa and Vancouver (where he was living when he died in 1944) say nothing of his hockey career.
Still, from 1905 to 1909, Marty McGuire was playing hockey in Fort William and Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay, Ontario). If there is anything at all to Roy Welch’s claim that McGuire invented the poke check and the hook check, he may well have taught or inspired Jack Walker, who was playing hockey in Port Arthur at that time and is often credited (as is Frank Nighbor) as the originator of those moves.
Roy Welch’s thoughts in Jerry Nason’s column in Boston caught the attention of Baz O’Meara, writing in the Montreal Star. In his column on January 7, 1943, O’Meara takes Welch to task, referring to him as “one of those old timers who gets a bit misty in the minaret when he starts talking about old time stars.”
Clearly, O’Meara (who’d grown up in Ottawa in the 1890s and 1900s) had never heard of Marty McGuire either. He also dismissed Welch’s claims that Frank McGee used to practice by setting up planks of wood an inch thick and then breaking them with his shot.
“The late Frank must have done those things in secret,” says O’Meara, “because when he was an Aberdeen he was a hot shot, but not that good. When he was with Ottawa he was a very hard shot too, and very accurate, but he was no boardbreaker.”
In summary, O’Meara writes that, “The Welch findings sound to us like the maunderings of an old timer who dwells in the past.”
Whereas my story presented for you here today represents the maunderings (ramblings) of a middle-aged timer who dwells in the past!